Clock Demand Strikes in Time for Spring

Samuel Deacon automaton bracket clock

The Clocks and Barometers category in our March Fine Art auction proved popular with private collectors and trade buyers alike. Of the nineteen lots, fifteen found new homes. Two clocks shared the top hammer price within the category, each realising £5,500. One was a large resplendent Victorian figured walnut mantel clock. It had a fuse movement that struck on eight bells and five gongs quite merrily throughout the viewing. The sizeable clock, in good working condition, obviously caught attention, exceeding the £2,000-£3,000 estimate. The second was a rather rare time piece that was made 225 years ago in a small Leicestershire hamlet called Barton-in-the-Beans. Mark Gilding explains why Samuel Deacon’s repeating table clock struck gold.

Samuel Deacon

Samuel Deacon was born in Ratby, Leicestershire, in 1746, and is a highly regarded clock maker of the Georgian period, undoubtedly the county’s finest. He is better known for his longcase clocks, such as lot 217 in the auction which made £500. The scarcity of the bracket clock, lot 216, is two-fold: very few other bracket clocks by Deacon are known (and his output is highly documented with the family archive preserved in the Leicester Museums’ collections); and the automaton movement itself is particularly rare in this example. The automaton aspect, that is the painted cylinder that rotates above the main dial, shows his humour. The farmyard scene is rather whimsical and far from the traditional moon phase scenes common of the period. As the clock moves past the quarter hour, a chicken creeps up to the farmer who is attempting to put a hat on its head, but always in vein. The case itself strikes you as clearly from someone who made more longcase clocks throughout his career – it looks like the hood section of a longcase with feet on! But the condition is good and original, as with the movement. A combination of these factors backed by a keen market lead to this strong result. The total purchase price came to £6,490. The last automaton musical longcase at auction realised £7,000 in 2017 showing Deacon’s demand continues.

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